Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida has become a seasonal juggernaut in Central Florida, attracting hundreds of thousands of guests every year, with slam-dunk IPs like Stranger Things and Universal Monsters as well as buzzy original concept houses setting the bar for horror-themed entertainment in the area.
Though this has been quite the boon for horror fans, there has been a downside to the overwhelming success of Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando: Overcrowding.
Image: UniversalEver since the beginning of this year’s event, fans have been commenting on higher-then-normal wait times, even on slow nights. Some theorized that this could be due to Universal selling too many skip-the-line services like Express and RIP tours or perhaps issues with merge points. While these may be contributing factors, a much more likely reason is that the event itself has grown too popular, especially among locals, many of whom buy the tiered multi-night Frequent Fear Passes and visit dozens of times during the 48-night event.
Universal has always maintained that these kinds of passes are limited in capacity and may sell out. However, something happened recently that has some Halloween Horror Nights fans feeling nervous about the future of this event.
Universal shuts down Frequent Fear Pass sales less than halfway through the event
Image: UniversalUniversal unexpectedly announced on September 28 that Frequent Fear and Frequent Fear Plus Passes were sold out for the remainder of Halloween Horror Nights 32 at Universal Studios Florida. This came as quite a shock to fans of the event, who typically have been able to purchase the multi-day passes well into October.
Many fans have speculated that this move was a reaction to overcrowding at the event, and a last-ditch effort to get wait times under control before October’s busy season kicks in. And while this move will likely be successful at easing congestion, some are worried about the implications for next year’s Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, and the future of the multi-night Frequent Fear Pass
Could the Frequent Fear Pass be going away? Or just getting more expensive?
Image: UniversalIt is impossible to do Halloween Horror Nights in just one night, largely because of the crowds, which is why multi-day tickets like the Frequent Fear pass are so popular. However, the existence of the Frequent Fear Passes themselves are partly to blame for making the event so crowded in the first place, putting Universal in a weird catch-22 with regard to the future of this type of multi-night admission. So what is the solution?
It is clear that something has to be done about multi-night event tickets in the future to help get capacity under control and make the event as enjoyable as possible both for single-night guests and those who want to come back for multiple nights. And here’s where fans’ anxiety about the future of the event comes in.
One way Universal could limit the amount of Frequent Fear Passes sold would be to take a leaf out of Walt Disney World’s book and price them much higher in the future. Even at their current levels, these passes would hardly be considered cheap.
For 2023, different tiers were available for 30, 40, or all 48 nights, and ranged in price between $229.99 and $379.99, before any options like Express were added. In addition, none of the passes save for the highest tier included parking. If Universal does go through with hiking prices on Frequent Fear Passes, it could be a serious hit on fans’ wallets, which are already fairly strained even under their current pricing structure.
Another option would be to limit the amount of both Frequent Fear passes and single-night tickets for sale. This is another area where Universal could learn something from Disney, as capacity at their Halloween event, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is severely limited, and it is not uncommon for nights to sell out weeks or even months in advance while fans scramble for the small number of tickets available.
Considering both Frequent Fear Passes and single-night tickets typically go on sale in the summer, Universal could adopt a similar limited-time strategy, and lower the threshold where a “sell-out” occurs, which would help ease capacity, and encourage fans to plan ahead.
Could more entertainment help manage crowds?
Image: UniversalHalloween Horror Nights fans likely wouldn’t like either of these options, as limiting access to the event would necessarily deprive some fans of their chance to check out the annual event in the future. However, there is another option, but it would take some investment on Universal’s part: beefing up entertainment.
Currently, there are ten houses at Halloween Horror Nights, and there really isn’t much room for more. However, Universal has plenty of vacant stage space at Universal Studios Florida, and adding another show or two could help give guests more to do inside the park and spread out crowds.
In the past, Universal has had projection-based lagoon shows, which guests could stop and watch, as well as other shows besides the one in the Fear Factor stage running at the same time. Though investing in more live entertainment would definitely cost Universal some money for an already high-production cost event, it might be worth it if it means that more guests can purchase tickets and passes to experience Halloween Horror Nights.
There’s no telling what Universal will do in the next year and beyond about Halloween Horror Nights’ capacity issues. However, something will have to be done, and you can bet that conversations are happening right now as to the best way to continue to make this event as accessible as possible for Halloween fans while addressing the massive overcrowding issue that has plagued this event in 2023.